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FF Dissidia Director and FFXIII Concept Artist Working on Major Title in America

Yosuke Shiokawa and Yuki Matsuzawa discuss working with overseas developers during CEDEC session.

CEDEC is taking place this week at the Pacifico convention center in Yokohama. (Image is from last year's event.)

The annual CEDEC development conference is not known for major announcements. But Square Enix's Yosuke Shiokawa and Yuki Matsuzawa brought a surprise to their session today in Yokohama.

Shiokawa served as director on Dissidia Final Fantasy. Matsuzawa was concept artist for Final Fantasy XIII.

During a two part afternoon session discussing overseas development issues, the two revealed that they're working with an American development team on a new game. Famitsu.com, in its coverage of the session, described the game as a "large scale project" and "a top class title that targets overseas core gamers."

Shiokawa is serving as creative director, with Matsuzawa serving as concept artist. The two are themselves working out of America.

Without naming the title, Matsuzawa and Shiokawa gave a development timeline, which you can see in this slide at Famitsu.com.

According to the slide, one and a half years have passed since development started. Over this time, development has progressed through the following phases:

Six months spent looking into the key features of the product and creating a prototype. [dt]Vertical Slice[/dt]
Six months spent making a 15 minute gameplay build at 70% quality. [dt]Pre-Production[/dt]
Four months spent focusing the concept by playing the vertical slice build and getting feedback. Also, creation of the "pipeline" and other areas of the development environment.

The slide says that they are now in full development of the game. Assuming the positioning of the marker is to scale, the project appears to still be a ways out.

Rather than introducing a new game, the session was meant to describe some of the issues of cross cultural development. The name of the session was "Our First Japanese and American Group Development."

Shiokawa and Matsuzawa revealed that their initial image of North American development consisted of three points: "focus on realistic games," "top down production model" and "lots of documentation." However, reality turned out to be different from their expectations.

For Shiokawa, there were initially some issues regarding characters and a focus on reality. Many expect overseas games, in particular action games and shooters, to have macho characters solve problems with their strength and fists. One also often hears that overseas gamers are critical of the Japanese way of having slender characters or female characters fighting, claiming this to lack realism.

Interestingly enough, during early presentations, many of the overseas staff with whom Shiokawa was working appeared to not want realism, saying things looked too plain or uninteresting. At the same time, when changing the concept to fantasy, the staff felt that while this certainly appears to be flashy it's hard to understand.

In the end, Shiokawa came to the conclusion that the characters who appear in overseas games are meant to be "believable." In other words, they don't just clear hurdles simply because they're "tough men." Rather, they have a believability about them because they're able to clear hurdles because they are tough men with various backgrounds behind them.

Some of the finer points appear to be lost in Famitsu's short summary, but Shiokawa summed his part of the presentation up with a slide listing "Not a focus on realistic games, not fantasy, but believability." He for some reason chose to illustrate this with an image of a cat.

Matsuzawa, meanwhile, initially approached the project in accordance with his expectations of a top down approach. However, the staff did not seem to like this.

He came to the conclusion that rather than having decisions forced from above, the staff greatly value the feel of taking part in the process. He felt that it was important for him to, for instance, make drawings of the main character, take these out in meetings, have the staff debate freely about it, and manage by considering the general feel of the debate.

Matsuzawa summed up his part of the presentation with a slide listing "Not top-down decision making, but group decision making and reading between the lines." Unfortunately, the image Matsuzawa used to illustrate this point was covered up by a menu in Famitsu's photo.

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